Amid the Gulf crisis in which Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been pressuring Qatar to curb its regional capacity under the pretext of financing terrorism, the densely populated and embargoed Gaza City also has importance since the UAE would like to expand its influence. For this purpose, Mohammad Dahlan, an exiled politician and businessman, is the best figure to be replaced with Hamas rule. By doing so, Qatar and Turkey's influence would be curbed, according to the UAE.
Hamas, which is under pressure from Israel, Egypt and the U.S., has eased its approach to Dahlan and let some demonstrators hold a rally for his arrival in Gaza last week. Moreover, a UAE-backed office was opened in Gaza to distribute humanitarian aid. The office is a center for pro-Dahlan Gazans. The rapprochement between the UAE and Israel as well as Egypt's growing enmity toward Hamas after the coup in 2013, has been forcing Hamas to welcome Dahlan. The latest power cuts and the continuation of the embargo have been additional factors. The Associated Press (AP) reported last week:
"All involved appear to benefit from the new deal for Gaza, described in detail by key players. Egypt, which is battling Islamic extremist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula next to Gaza, hopes to contain the Islamic militant Hamas through new security arrangements. Dahlan, forced into exile after falling out with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010, is poised to launch a comeback and advance his Palestinian leadership ambitions. Hamas gets a chance to prolong its rule with a promised easing of Gaza's stifling border blockade. Egypt and Israel had imposed the closure after Hamas seized Gaza in a violent 2007 takeover that included battles with forces loyal to Dahlan. … The three-way agreement aims to revive Gaza's battered economy and restore a sense of normalcy for 2 million Gazans, who have largely been barred from travel and trade for the past decade and have endured rolling power cuts, most recently of up to 20 hours a day."
In a recent interview with the AP, Dahlan said the negotiations would help ease the power cuts and open the Rafah border crossing. He added that the UAE had already secured $100 million for a power plant in Gaza.
Underlining the rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan, Al-Jazeera said: "The objectives of the Dahlan-Hamas deal – ending the border blockade, reviving Gaza's battered economy – could also weaken Palestinian statehood aspirations by creating a ‘mini-state' in Gaza. For more than two decades, Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, have unsuccessfully sought to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in negotiations with Israel."
Similarly, late last month, Haaretz also reported on the rumor, saying the UAE and Egypt are holding talks. Furthermore, in an opinion piece published in Haaretz last month, Zvi Barel said that these plans also include aims to neutralize Qatar and Turkey regarding Gaza. According to Barel, if the plan is implemented, Egypt will keep the Rafah border crossing open and the UAE will establish a power plant in the densely populated city that has been suffering from fuel shortages ever since Israel reduced the amount of fuel provided, at the request of Abbas.Dahlan is a popular figure in the region. He has joined peace talks for Syria in Cairo last March, he participated in a meeting organized by Russian President Valdimir Putin in 2015 and appears on several TV channels, presenting himself as a man who can save the region. He often attacks Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is clear that Dahlan is supported by the UAE and Egypt, which are disappointed with Turkey's active role in the region. Dahlan received Serbian citizenship in 2013 after promising Belgrade millions of dollars of investments. "In February 2015, Ivica Dacic, then Serbia's Foreign Minister, confirmed that Serbia had granted Dahlan citizenship in 2013. Dahlan reportedly promised Serbia millions of dollars in investments from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been living since 2011," Balkan Insight reported last July. Some Turkish media outlets have claimed that Dahlan was also involved in the July 15 coup attempt orchestrated by Fetullah Terror Group (FETÖ) members. Egypt's statements immediately after the coup, ensuring FETÖ members that they could take refuge in Egypt, brings about the question of whether Dahlan and Egypt's autocratic regime cooperate against Turkey. In addition, his TV channel, Gad al-Arabi, operating in Egypt has decorated Egyptian billboards with posters of Erdoğan, depicting him as a sultan. After July 15, FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen gave an interview to the channel.
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